Francesca Villette

THE SA Human Rights Commission has found a parenting manual by the Joshua Generation Church that promotes corporal punishment to be in violation of the constitution.

And now an amendment to the Children’s Act prohibiting corporal punishment in the home has been prepared, commission spokesperson Isaac Mangena said yesterday.

This development followed the conclusion of an inves- tigation into a parenting manual, “Raising Children – Transformation through Truth”, which promoted corporal punishment and which was published by the Sunningdale-based church.

It was available for free download on the church’s website in 2013.

Under a chapter titled “Training tools” and subheaded “The rod”, the manual reads: “Spanking has become a controversial issue in this day and age. The rod is not just used for disciplining your children, but is also used as a training tool.”

An extract under the subheading “Selecting the rod” read: “Remember, a spanking must cause some pain otherwise it is useless and your child will remain unchanged. It is most effective to strike a light rod against bare skin. No bruising, no injury.”

Human rights organisation Sonke Gender Justice joined Hannah and Adriaan Mostert, and Carol Bower in laying a complaint with the commission against the church in July 2013. When the website was upgraded later that year, the manual had been removed.

The commission found, among others, the justification of moderate chastisement of children and the advocacy of corporal punishment in the home by the church was unacceptable, regardless of whether it was based on religion.

“Corporal punishment in any form is inconsistent with constitutional values and violates provisions of accepted international, regional human rights standards,” it said.

It recommended that the church provide the commission with a written agreement within 30 days that it would desist from advocating corporal punishment as a means of discipline; that the church remove all references to physical punishment from its teaching materials; and that its pastors involved in presenting parenting courses give alternative forms of non- violent discipline.

The commission also recommended that the cabinet direct the Department of Social Development (DSD) to prohibit corporal punishment in homes.

Church spokesperson Advocate Nadene Badenhorst said the commission’s recommendations would “damage children and destroy families”, should they become law.

The church planned to appeal the commission’s findings and recommendations, Badenhorst said.

“The state is crossing the sacred line of family and also violating the religious freedom of people of different faiths who believe, according to their interpretation of the sacred texts, that it is their parental duty to provide appropriate guidance to their children (including, at times, to spank them within the bounds of the law) for their education and benefit,” Badenhorst said.

“For the SAHRC, or the state, to dictate to parents how they should raise their children, or what they should believe, is a gross violation of human rights and against the constitution.”

Mangena said an amendment to the Children’s Act prohibiting corporal punishment in the home has been prepared and is due to go through the law-making process early this year.

“We should remember that South Africa has ratified a number of international and regional human rights treaties which provide for the protection of all citizens‚ including children‚ from assault.

“A growing body of wide-ranging‚ peer-reviewed research has established unequivocally that even the ‘loving little smacks’ result in a host of negative impacts on social‚ cognitive‚ behavioural and intellectual development,” he said.

Sonke Gender Justice spokesperson Patrick Godana said the organisation was delighted by the commission’s report and hoped the DSD would legalise the banning of caning.

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